Re: Two more gaps in the fossil record
Fri, 15 Oct 1999 19:02:04 +0000

At 10:07 AM 10/15/1999 -0700, Cliff Lundberg wrote:
>How do we know it's *transitional*? If we know it's transitional, how do we
>know in which *direction* the transition is occurring? Maybe all we can say
>is that it's *intermediate* morphologically. If birds generally come later in
>the fossil record, how do we know they didn't exist as a rare type for a long
>time, prior to becoming widespread?

We don't. That is one of the things about the fossil record that is little
known. However, if you are engaged in an exercise of doubt, to see how
much data you can doubt, then no data will suffice for any conclusion
whatsoever. What one must deal in is probabilities. It is highly probable
that birds came after dinosaurs and it is highly probable that hollow boned
animals were not alive too much earlier than this creature. There is
selective pressure against hollow bones among land dwellers

We all know about evolution through
>reduction, we know about flightless birds; why couldn't Archaeoraptor be
>'on the way' toward being a solid-boned flightless creature? What about
>the quite reasonable possibility that it left no descendant species at all?

There are no hollow-boned animals except birds and hollow boned animals are
found AFTER the solid boned dinosaurs. Archaeopteryx is solid boned (see
Carroll, Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution, 1988, p. 339)

>I would like to make my own tiny squeak of protest against the perennial
>use of terms like 'archaeo-' or 'proto-' in naming these animals. These words
>are not only meaningless in terms of description, they make unjustified
>implications about phylogeny and evolution.
>Suppose an alien exploring the Earth in the far future found a fossilized
>otter. Would he claim it was transitional between seal and badger? What
>would justify his claim of the directionality of the transition? Would he be
>prejudiced according to whether he himself were terrestrial or aquatic?

If all he had was an otter, a seal and a badger yes. But if he had the
plethora of fossils we have, he wouldn't.

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